Ambulance Case: Minority Leader Ato Forson has two weeks to fight-off reckless payments charge

The leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson is staring at jailtime if he is unable to convince an Accra High Court that he did not cause financial loss to the State while he was a Deputy Minister of Finance in 2014.

The NDC bigwig has only two weeks to assemble the facts necessary to state his case after he was ordered to do so by Justice Afia Asare-Botwe, a Justice of the Court of Appeal sitting as an additional High Court Judge.

The order follows the dismissal of Dr. Ato Forson’s submission of ‘No Case’ against filed by him in the criminal matter instituted by the Republic.


The court upheld the arguments of the Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame asserting that a case had been made for Dr. Ato Forson to answer to charges of willfully causing financial loss to the state of Ghana over the botched importation of some 200 ambulances into the country in 2014.

Dr. Ato Forson, then a Deputy Minister of Finance caused the Bank of Ghana to issue Irrevocable Letters of Credit (LCs) to pay for the ambulances against the stipulations of the terms of the agreement.

The Attorney General led evidence in court over the last year to prove that Dr. Forson disregarded the provisions in the contract regarding the purchase of the ambulances and the manner in which payment was supposed to be done.

Godfred Dame further provided documentary evidence to corroborate charges against two others, Sylvester Anemana, a former Chief Director at the Ministry of Health and Richard Jakpa, an agent of Big Sea Company Limited, suppliers of the ambulances. The two are on trial for abetting the crime and or being involved in the enterprise to cause financial loss to Ghana.

Finding of Facts and Application of the law

In a 55-page ruling on whether a prima-facie case had been made against the accused, Justice Afia Asare Botwe reasoned that the Attorney General had presented weighty evidence in establishing the case of the Republic.

Using decided cases and citing other authorities, the learned judge averred that in a preliminary trial the standard of proof was not meant to be ‘reasonable doubt’ but prima-facie meaning the prosecution had satisfied all the ingredients of the offence and the accused could be convicted based on the assertions made. The defense will then have to raise reasonable doubt when they open their case.

Even then Justice Asare Botwe was categorical in her view that to the extent that 2.37 million euros had been paid on the authorization of Dr. Ato Forson for a consignment of ambulances which were pronounced defective and unfit for purpose on arrival in Ghana by both the Ministry of Health and the National Ambulance Service, a loss had accrued to the state. That loss lay at the doorstep of Dr. Ato Forson.

Justice Asare Botwe further held that the onus of proving whether the then Deputy Minister had authorization from his Minister, Hon. Seth Terkper, to proceed with the payments needed to be proved by him and not the prosecution.

The judge was also clear that Sylvester Anemana who made false representations to the Public Procurement Authority to obtain approval for single sourcing for Big Sea all the while knowing that a purported Stanbic facility approved by parliament to finance the acquisition of the ambulances was non-existent.

Richard Jakpa, the agent of Big Sea was similarly ordered to open his defense. Despite knowing that the ambulances were not fit for purpose he championed the cause of Big Sea in collecting payments from the Ministry. Richard Jakpa, according to his lawyers was an improper person to be prosecuted as it was his company and not him per se who acted as an agent of Big Sea.

The judge however disagreed with that submission stating that directors of companies were liable for the wrongs and illegal activities of their businesses since companies were not self-executing but worked or acted through their officers including directors.

Misapprehension of the Law.

Even though the learned judge praised the lawyers on all sides of the case for their cogent arguments, she had occasion to criticize some of the defense lawyers for what she termed was ‘a misapprehension of the law.’

Some of the lawyers had argued in their written submissions that the case of the prosecution lacked merit because it failed to meet the standard of reasonable doubt when indeed it was supposed to be establishing a prima facie case instead.

She also indicated that it was not the burden of the Attorney General to prove that Dr. Ato Forson did indeed have authorization from Hon. Seth Terkper to effect payments as averred by some of the lawyers. Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe substantially upheld Godfred Dame’s arguments of law asserting that a case had been made for Dr. Ato Forson to answer.

Uphill Task for Dr. Forson and Lawyers

The new Minority Leader in Parliament now has two weeks as the Court has asked for his lawyers to file their case by April 13, 2023. The ambulances on arrival in Ghana were deemed not fit for purpose.

As stated in the report of Silver Star Auto ltd., the then dealers of Mercedes Benz in Ghana the vehicles were not built as ambulances and therefore could not be utilized as such. The National Ambulance Service after inspection reported that the vehicles had no medical and other equipment for a functional ambulance.

The specifications of the Mercedes Benz Ambulance stipulated in the contract was different from what was also supplied. The case resumes on April 18,2023.


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